the rarest and purest generosity

Today is the last day of a camp staff training period that lasted nearly three weeks, with Jim working most every waking hour since Memorial Day. We are eating ungodly amounts of dining hall hot dogs, pretzel dogs, bagel dogs, corn dogs, and even, God help us, something that might best be described as a "breakfast dog," and we are hanging in, some moments by a thread.

But! Campers come Sunday and with them daily hours--and a whole weekly day!--off for Jim. And hopefully my own emergence from survival mode and renewed commitment to things like leaving my house, grocery shopping, and preparing healthful food, because I cannot abide the breakfast dog. There are limits, certainly, to what a person can endure for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

My friend D.L. Mayfield posted a link this morning to an article by Jonathan Safran Foer that challenged me, and I wanted to pass it along to you. When I experience stress, I have a tendency to retreat into technology and myself, and parenting unruly preschoolers is nothing if not stressful. But this is not how I want to live this summer or at all:

My daily use of technological communication has been shaping me into someone more likely to forget others. The flow of water carves rock, a little bit at a time. And our personhood is carved, too, by the flow of our habits.
Psychologists who study empathy and compassion are finding that unlike our almost instantaneous responses to physical pain, it takes time for the brain to comprehend the psychological and moral dimensions of a situation. The more distracted we become, and the more emphasis we place on speed at the expense of depth, the less likely and able we are to care.
Everyone wants his parent’s, or friend’s, or partner’s undivided attention — even if many of us, especially children, are getting used to far less. Simone Weil wrote, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” By this definition, our relationships to the world, and to one another, and to ourselves, are becoming increasingly miserly. (New York Times)

I want to know, what helps you to pay attention well? What are you enjoying or looking forward to this summer? Are there disciplines or boundaries that help you to stay focused and engaged? What memories endure from your own childhood summers? How do you keep things simple and fun for yourself, your kids, or your family this season?

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